Written by: Cally Worden
A bailiff may pay you a visit if you have an unpaid debt and you have not been in contact with whoever you owe the money to. They are also engaged to provide a personal handover service for certain legal documents. Bailiffs are effectively ‘enforcement agents’, whose job is to uphold the law. They have the power to arrest you, they are permitted to use their judgement to keep order and ensure you meet any legal obligations.
The Bailiffs Obligations
Bailiffs are normally obliged to give you a minimum notice of seven days prior to their first visit to your home. In most circumstances they cannot enter your home:
- using force
- if only minors or vulnerable disabled people are present
- by any other means apart from the door
- between the hours of 9pm and 6am
They are, however, permitted as a last resort to use force to enter premises in order to recover criminal fines that are unpaid, also outstanding Income Tax and Stamp Duty.
Preventing a Bailiff Visit
In some instances, such as the serving of court documents, a visit from the Bailiffs may be unavoidable. But, if you think that a visit is imminent because you have an unpaid debt, you can move to prevent them knocking on your door by paying back what you owe.
If you don’t let a Bailiff in they are entitled to take things from outside your home, such as your car. If you do permit the Bailiffs to enter but don’t or can’t pay them, they can take belongings from your home and sell them to raise money to pay off some, or all of your debts, also to cover their own fees.
When a Bailiff Arrives
Always ask to see ID before you even consider letting a Bailiff enter your home. Find out what company they are from, ask them for a telephone number you can contact them on. You also have the right to demand a breakdown of the amounts they say you owe. To confirm the identity of the Bailiff at your door you can contact the agency or court that sent them, or the county court business centre, which will have a list of all certified enforcement agents in your area.
If you are Able to Pay
If you are in a position to pay the Bailiff and settle your debts when they arrive, you don’t have to let the Bailiffs into your home. Always make sure you get a receipt for any money you hand over. If you can’t pay everything immediately, you may be able to pay a little and seek to negotiate a regular repayment schedule with your Bailiff. They do not have to accept any such proposals from you, but it is worth a try if you think you will be able to meet regular payments and pay off your debts in this way.
What they Can and Can’t Take
Bailiffs are able to take luxury goods from your home, such as the TV, DVD player, games consoles, computers, and so on. They cannot take anything that does not belong directly to you (for example your partner’s X-Box). They are also prevented from removing essential items from your home, such as your cooker, fridge, or clothes. Work tools that have a collective value of less than ¬£1350 are also protected.
In addition to any personal debts, a visit from the Bailiff will also make you liable to pay their own fees. These vary according to your circumstances, but be aware that if you owe more than ¬£1500 the Bailiff may also, under certain circumstances, be entitled to charge a percentage of your debt as an additional fee every time they visit your home.